‘TripAdvisor for hospitals’ uses patient reviews to rank Hong Kong health care outcomes

New website Hospital Advisor will give all Hong Kong hospitals, public and private, a ‘Quality of Care’ score and empower patients to make more considered decisions on hospital care

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 May, 2016, 10:38am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 May, 2016, 4:38pm

An online platform to rank Hong Kong hospitals’ quality of care based on patient reviews was launched today. HospitalAdvisor.org.hk covers all 41 public and 11 private hospitals in the city and seeks to empower patients to make more considered decisions about their hospital care.

The website, which is available in English, traditional and simplified Chinese, was developed through a collaboration between the Harvard Global Health Institute, Hong Kong University’s School of Public Health, and local non-profit social policy think tank The Zubin Foundation.

It is the brainchild of Shalini Mahtani, co-founder of The Zubin Foundation, whose first child, Zubin, died suddenly at the age of three from pneumococcal meningitis in May 2009. Motivated to make some good come from her son’s death, Mahtani created Hospital Advisor to empower patients with more information on Hong Kong’s hospitals.

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“When we buy a phone or decide which university to go to, there are loads of different surveys and rankings that tell us this is better than that. But it struck me as odd that in perhaps the most important decision we’ll make that will affect our lives directly – the hospital we choose – there was no information,” says Mahtani, a fourth-generation Hongkonger who’s well known for her work on corporate responsibility, diversity and inclusion.

Mahtani and her husband, Ravi Gidumal, have funded the platform, which is registered as a social enterprise, out of their own pockets.

Hospital Advisor was officially unveiled at a ceremony at the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine, where Undersecretary for Food and Health Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee delivered the opening remarks. Some 390 reviews have already been collected by the platform to date through Mahtani’s personal and professional network and that of her friends and colleagues.

Patients, or close relatives of patients, are invited to fill in a 27-question survey within three months of their hospital visit, after first registering on the website.

The survey takes 5-10 minutes to complete. There are some general questions about the hospital stay, specific questions on quality of care that require a rating, and two open-ended questions where patients are free to comment on their hospital experience.

The ratings are aggregated into a “Quality of Care” score (maximum of 4 points) for the hospital and the particular speciality. This unique survey and methodology was developed by Professor Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, and Dr Janice Johnston, an associate professor at HKU’s School of Public Health.

“Our Quality of Care score and the quality of care indicators on Hospital Advisor will be an additional source of information for patients,” says Jha. “Experience in the US and elsewhere shows that patient experience surveys can provide important insights about the quality of care in the hospitals. Patients’ experiences are both important unto themselves and a very good proxy for broader quality of care.”

Scores and rankings are updated at the end of each month, while written comments are updated twice a week. Patient data is kept confidential from hospitals and other users.

The more completed surveys collected, the more useful is the information generated, say the experts. Patient involvement is therefore invaluable in making Hospital Advisor a meaningful resource.

With demand for beds far outstripping supply in local hospitals, will Hospital Advisor ratings really push hospitals to improve if they need to?

“Perhaps not, from the perspective of there will always be supply,” says Mahtani, who has a master’s degree in economics from the London School of Economics and is a certified accountant by training.

“However, the questions asked of hospitals might be different. So for example, in going to a private hospital, a patient may ask his or her doctor, ‘Who’s going to cover me in your absence?’ or ‘I’ve heard the nurses don’t spend much time with patients here, what do you have to say about that?’

“I’d like to believe the leadership at good hospitals will say that they can always improve because it’s not about filling beds, but about being the best and putting patients at the centre.”

Have you been in hospital recently? Rate your stay - and help improve Hong Kong hospitals’ quality of care - by filling up the survey at www.hospitaladvisor.org.hk.